Wednesday, May 09, 2012


We've established that Paul is NOT talking about authority in this passage. [See last post.] The only way anyone can inject authority here is by reading it into the word "head." But that's a modern meaning to that word and doesn't adequately reveal the intention of Paul's words at all. Had Paul intended "authority" as we moderns see present in the word "head," or if he had meant the "boss" or the one "in charge," he could have easily said that with the Greek word "arche." [Pronounced ar-Kay] Actually it was a popular word that was used to describe two things. One___it meant "importance" or "power." We see this when it js a prefix to our words like "archangel" or "archbishop." Even someone being your "archenemy" would show it. That's "head" meaning first in importance or power. But, second, it meant "beginnings" or "point of origin." This would be seen in words like "archives" or "archetype." We could also use "head" in this way by saying "headwaters" of a river or the "beginnings" of a river like the Mississippi river.

But there was in Paul's day a second Greek word which is also translated "head." That word is "Kephale." [Pronounced Kef-a-lay]  It is a word which, of course, means a "body part," but also can mean "foremost"in terms of position.  "Kephale" can also mean "source" like the "headwaters" as seen by Chrysostom using it that way in some of his writings. Yet, and this is important, it is NEVER USED to mean "boss" or "leader" in the "authority" sense.

So, what does "head" mean here in Ephesians 5:23 if not "boss?" It means the guy who is NOT a general of a commanding officer, but perhaps it's referring to the husband as a "point-man" [out in front] who is there to help others who are depending on him. But, perhaps, it was intended to refer to the source or beginnings of it all as Christ certainly is that for the Church and the man was that seeing the woman was taken from the man. [I personally lean toward the latter.] But it is NEVER used as one with a "superior rank" as in" head of a family or clan" by ANYONE in scripture or other Greek writings. Authority is NOT the intended subject here at all.

That's technical enough I would think. I've read tons on this text from scholars all the way from Laurie Fascullo, who would hesitate to call herself a scholar I'm thinking, [but I do] to Grudem, with scores of people in between, and have come away with my opinion on the whole thing.  So, my opinion is, if Paul had intended to use "head" to show the man was the "boss," he would never have used "kephale" at all. He would have used "arche." But he was very INTENTIONAL in not doing so. Why? Because he was saying something in a different ballpark altogether. So I'll simply state what that ballpark is that Paul was addressing as the finishing touches on this post. Mutuality of serving and meeting the needs of others is the clear subject in this passage when we are faithful to the text itself.

I'm convinced from my personal research on this passage that Paul was writing to elevate women to equal status with men in the same fashion that Jesus did in His ministry. Both men and women are called to serve each other in marriage and the man's way of doing that is by seeing himself, who was originally the source/beginnings from which woman was taken..remember the rib thing, serving his wife, as Jesus, who was the source/beginnings of the Church and loves her sacrificially. [We love Him because He FIRST loved us.]

It's profound to me that the word for wives serving [hupotassomenoi in verse 21] and the word for men loving [agapate in verse 25] have BASICALLY the same emphasis. To "look to the needs and concerns of the other." Serve and love. In simple terms biblically, "The wife serving is not something other than loving and the husband's loving is not something other than serving." So it is a mutuality of shared serving/loving that is at issue here for Paul. They are almost synonyms. In Jewish writings, a favorite technique was using synonyms in parallel form. You see this in the Psalms often.

Ps. 32:1 says..."Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. [Forgiven/covered]
Ps. 24:1 says..."The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein."

There is to be a mutuality in marriage according to Paul. The husband is no more to autonomously decide issues that face the family than the woman is to autonomously conceive the children that are born into a family.  

Neither loses themselves but willingly gives themselves for the other. This means a woman's serving/submission to a husband is never to be grounds for her experiencing a loss of her individual person in terms of thoughts, feelings, or even choices___ which would be more akin to a cult than to biblical Christianity___ just so___ a man's love/serving of his wife is to never lose the quality of Christ's love for the Church which was an unassuming kind that never demanded His own way. He love was kind, neither arrogant nor rude, and was voluntarily given___ as is the wife's submission/service to be.  

You talk about a new concept or idea and especially to those Ephesian Christians. Their whole culture was patriarchal and male-oriented. [Male-authority] The men in that society ran things whether it was the Jewish element or the Greek or Roman. Women seldom challenged it either. They had no individual or collective power to do so. 

But the gospel did challenge that. So that in Christ there is neither male nor female and here Paul is showing what that looks like in a serving way which flew in the face of the whole of that society. What's unbelievable to me is that some Christians try to use this very passage to continue to subject and control women as chattel property of the men. But to do THAT they have to READ INTO IT an authority that Paul was NOT intending.

By the way, while I'm in Paul the Apostle's ballpark, let me say also that the husband is not accountable for the spirituality of his wife either. Paul addressed that kind of false thinking when he said to the Roman Christians.."Every person will give account of himself to God." [Romans 14:12] He didn't say except for those that are married either. The man is never called upon in scripture to be an intermediary between his family and God or his wife and God, or anyone else for that matter. There is only one Intermediary [Prophet, Highpriest, and King] in the New Covenant and His name is Jesus, not the name of some one's husband.

As I said, it is tragic that the very passage where Paul brings to the early Church a unity and mutual servant hood in both the Church and the home has become the very passage that today's culture, both in and out of the Church, use to perpetuate a religious and cultural patriarchalism that Paul had learned through the Holy Spirit to despise and correct with Kingdom concepts.

Someone says..."But what about 1 Corinthians 11:3?"  We'll get to it eventually, but I promise you, since Paul wrote the first Corinthian letter from Ephesus where Paul was at the time, [57 AD]  he would neither mean anything different nor contradict anything he had already said to the Ephesians and now would say again in his letter to them now. [62 AD]

More on our scriptural map to male and female equality next time.

Paul B. 


Off The Cuff said...

Bro. Paul,
Once again you have hit the nail squarely on the head. (Pun intended). As you know, the Greek word (κεφαλή ) is a common word used approximately 76 times in the New Testament. Almost always it is used to describe the physical head, such as the “head of John the Baptist.” (Mark 6:24) Clearly, in Eph. 5: 23-25, Paul is not talking about anything physical. The metaphorical uses of the word in the NT. are quite revealing. Mark 12:10 speaks of Jesus being the head but likens his headship to the cornerstone of a building. The cornerstone is not placed on the top of a building to be admired; rather it is the first stone in the foundation of the building. It is the stone from which every measurement is taken. It keeps the building plumb and true. In Col. 1:18, Jesus is referred to again as the head. This time he is the head of the church. The next sentence in that verse clarifies how “head” is to be interpreted. Paul said, “who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead.” Clearly, in this context “head” means beginning. Given these two definitions, the Ephesians passage takes on a whole new meaning, just as you have indicated.
Have a Great Day!
God Bless!

p.s. Do you have a good outline for a Mother's Day Sermon? :)

Paul Burleson said...

Off the C,

How about we call your comment "addendum 1" instead of "comment 1."

WOW, that's good stuff. Thanks!

As to a Mother's day favorite one I have used is...

This is topical because it is Mother's day and is different than I normally do things sermon wise.

11 Tim. 1:5


Intro___ Explain that Paul was remembering the influence of Eunice on her son Timothy.

What kind of mother has that?

I would IMAGINE had we been able to know Eunice she would have been the kind of mother that we would call...


Nothing soft about giving birth.

But nothing soft about being a true disciple as a woman either.

[Use Romans 16:3 as an illustration]


When Apollos came to Ephesus he was helped by PRISCILLA AND AQUILLA.

A woman does not lose who she is in a marriage but brings her unique person to the whole of the family.


Timothy's father isn't even mentioned. This doesn't necessarily mean he wasn't there, but as a Greek, he may, in fact, have not been a believer. But Timothy's mother was a servant without being suppressed by that fact.

Even married to a believer Priscilla was named in 1 Corinthians 16:19 by Paul as saluting the Corinthians with her husband Aquilla. Notice Paul used a singular verb with a compound subject when speaking of them.

I love that! Priscilla was another woman like Eunice.

Whether or not Priscilla had children is anyone's guess, but she would have been the kind of mother Eunice was if she did. We'll ask her when we get to heaven.

Conclusion___We don't have to wait to thank our mothers. Whether they were like Eunice or not our hearts are drawn to honor them BECAUSE of the One who is our Savior born of a woman.


Off The Cuff said...

Bro. Paul,
Thanks for the Ammo. I will reload your outline and see if I can make it fit my gun. :)

Paul Burleson said...

O the C,

Fire away! I'll bet the guy I got it from won't mind at all. [Whoever that guy was...I can't remember which book....] ;)

Aussie John said...


Takes me back to a sermon many years ago (after I came to my senses) whilst speaking on Eph.5.

I remember the heated conversations I overheard after the meeting. The debate was raging over similar words to your, "It's profound to me that the word for wives...".
It means the guy who is's referring to the husband as a "point-man" [out in front] who is there to help others who are depending on him."

Many a marriage would have survived if, either or both, husband and/or wife had understood the profundity of your words, "Neither loses themselves but willingly gives themselves for the other".

Thank you for the effort being expended on this series!

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,

Thank you for this study of Ephesians 5. It is much needed.

Last post, you mentioned Eph 1:22, and that you would later explain why "kephale" in that verse does not mean "authority." Are you still planning to address it?


Paul Burleson said...


I've been away from my computer for the past three days and two nights on a fishing trip. Great conversation with my wife, two brother-in-laws and their spouses, but not much conversation with the fish. You gotta catch them to talk to them. :)

Aussie J,

Your comment is appreciated as always.


I'm sorry but I don't understand the question. "Kephale" is not in verse 22. It is in verse 23 and that's what I'm addressing in the first three paragraphs of this post. Read those paragraphs again and if for some reason my understanding is lacking, which it very well could be, ask your question again, please.

Anonymous said...

I was asking about Ephesians 1:22 (which you briefly mentioned in your last post); while the first three paragraphs in this post deal with Ephesians 5:23.

I am left wondering what it means in chapter *1* when verse 22 speaks of Christ as the "head" of the church, and whether that might be an example of "kephale" being used by the Apostle Paul in a way that includes the connotation of authority.

Personally, I believe it is highly unlikely that "kephale" connotes authority in either place in Ephesians. But friends more learned in the Greek than I (not hard to achieve, since I know virtually nothing!) have suggested that "kephale" has a range of meaning that could include the concept of authority (rarely), and that the word might be used one way in one place, and used a different way in another.

I was just wondering if you were planning to go more in-depth with analyzing the usage in v. 1:22, since you had said, "Being the 'Head' of the Church is referencing something else entirely as we will see later." No big deal; I'm just curious because I hesitate to say "kephale" *never* means authority, unless it is completely ruled out.

Thanks again for this series!

Paul Burleson said...


I get your question now. Your asking about CHAPTER 1 verse 22. I'm sorry as I only picked up on the verse 22 as referring to chapter 5.

Yes, the word "kephale" in 1:22 is one of the main reason I believe Paul's intention was the meaning of "source" or beginnings" That is because of the use of "under His feet" as an expression which indicates authority or being under control.

Then "kephale " as cornerstone or foundational as the beginning/source of all things pertaining to the Church. It is this that is the idea carried over in to the "Husband" being the source or cornerstone of the "wife" which was in contradistinction to the "woman" being created first as the mystery religion in Ephesus taught.

I know the issue is not settled with a declaration that "kephale" doesn't mean authority in any sense but when examined in the context of marriage in ANY passage it doesn't fly for me because of the authority of Christ over all His Body, the Church.

Serving is not the question. That is the "badge " of ALL believers to one another.

Paul Burleson said...

If you'll notice in Ephesians 2:20 the idea of Jesus being the "cornerstone" is carried over from the idea introduced in 1:22 of Him "being given" as the source "kephale" of all things pertaining to the Church.

So the whole context that feeds into Ephesians 5:23-25 is chapter 1:1-23 where because of the resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father, Jesus is established as "authority" over all [which is seen as being under His feet] and, thus, becomes the beginnings/source [kephale 1:22] of the church and the chief cornerstone of Her being built. [Chapter 2:20]

That idea of the man being "head" [kephale] of the woman is NOT authority [neither the word authority is used nor the metaphor of being under man's feet] but he is the beginnings/source of her contrary to the popular theology of the mystery religions of Paul's day. [Which makes him something of the pointman in marriage relationships in loving service. ]

Kristen said...

I think that in Ephesians 1, "kephale" most likely carries the meaning of "prominent one/the one at the top." In that passage, the preposition is "over," not "of." Christ is Kephale OVER principalities and powers FOR the church. The church is not one of the things Christ is OVER.

I think the most likely meaning of "kephale" in Eph. 5:22 is the same meaning used just a little earlier in chapter 4:15. Here the "head" is referred to in relation to the body. The understanding in Paul's time was that the head was the source of life and nourishment to the body. They thought of the heart as the seat of the intellect and will. But the head had eyes to be the source of light for the body, ears to be the source of sound, a mouth to be the source of air and food-- the idea was that the head was the source of provision for the body. That's why Eph 4:15-16 says that the body (the church) needs to hold fast to the Head (Christ) so that it may grow into fullness of love.

In the first-century Greco-Roman world, the husband was the source of provision for the wife in the same way. Women were completely dependent on their husbands to provide for them-- they had no possibility of income elsewhere. I think "head" is used elsewhere (like in 1 Cor 11) to mean "source" as in "origin" -- but that passage is not talking about husbands and wives. I think in Eph. 4 and 5 the meaning is "source of provision and nourishment."

"Head" meaning "point man" doesn't apply so much, I believe, because the metaphor being used is not a military one, but an anatomy one-- head-and-body.

In any event, the important thing is that Christ as "Head" is simply not a metaphor of authority or leadership-- anywhere in Ephesians. It is a metaphor of position in Chapter 1 (but the Church SHARES Christ's position over the principalities and powers, since she is "seated with Him") and of provision and unity in Chapters 4 and 5.

Paul Burleson said...


Very good comment. Your thoughts that there is no "authority" intention in Paul writing what he did IS the real point the post is making.

We'll keep on studying to discover the clear understand of his intention with the knowledge that whatever it is, it will be as one serving instead of controlling.